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Spiked Season : Loyola Volleyball Team Resigned to the Cellar of Powerful Conference

February 21, 1988|IRENE GARCIA | Times Staff Writer

The Loyola Marymount men's volleyball team is out of place. It's obvious that it doesn't belong in the powerful Western Intercollegiate Volleyball Assn.

Loyola has been in the cellar every year it has competed in the WIVA, which has always been the dominant conference in men's collegiate volleyball.

A WIVA team has won each of the 18 NCAA national volleyball titles since the sport was sanctioned in 1970.

With solid programs like 12-time NCAA champion UCLA and three-time NCAA champ Pepperdine in the conference, it's no wonder the WIVA has prevailed.

Those are solid programs that, along with others like two-time NCAA champion USC and San Diego State, have full-time coaches and the funding to offer the NCAA limit of five scholarships.

So what is a school like Loyola Marymount, with half the scholarships of the other schools in the conference--with the exception of Cal State Northridge, a Division II competitor in all other sports--and a part-time coach who's embarrassed to disclose his salary because it's so low, doing in such a strong league?

Getting killed for one. Loyola volleyball is a doormat team if there ever was one.

The Lions hold an 8-82 record for the last five years. The 1986 season was a banner year for Loyola because it finished with a record high four wins, along with 16 losses. Last year the Lions finished last in the WIVA with a 1-17 record.

"It really does get discouraging," said second-year Loyola Coach Rich Rosales, a former player at the school, who previously was an assistant. "Sometimes you just feel like banging your head against a wall.

"You have to learn not to care about losing or get so frustrated you just quit. It's a demoralizing kind of thing."

This year Loyola, which has been through five coaches in a decade, is 0-5 and, as usual, in last place in the 10-member conference.

"My goal is to upgrade the program and be competitive in the WIVA," said third-year Loyola Athletic Director Brian Quinn. "It will take us a couple of years, but I think with new money pumped in we can do it."

The money has to come from outside sources like fund raisers and boosters. Loyola's policy is that proceeds made by an athletic program go into the school's general fund, rather than to the team.

That's one of the reasons Kevin Cleary resigned in 1986 after two years as the Lions' head coach. That year he worked to get sponsors so Loyola could host the West Regional tournament.

Loyola grossed about $20,000 from the event, and after paying tournament expenses, there was $13,000 left. But it didn't go to the volleyball program.

"That broke the straw on the camel's back," said Cleary, who is the general manager of the Assn. of Volleyball Professionals. "The school wouldn't help, so I tried to help myself.

"I mean, we worked our butts off to raise the money. It's just unfair, especially to the kids. They work hard practicing for three hours a day and then have to go out and get humiliated night after night."

So why does Loyola keep its volleyball team in a league where the big guys eliminate any hope of success?

"The school needs a certain amount of Division I programs to let basketball and baseball compete in Division I," Rosales said. "We're kind of just there to support the other two programs."

The NCAA sets a minimum of 12 programs for a school to compete in Division I. Loyola has 16.

"It's very difficult for a small school like ours to fund that many programs," Quinn said. "It's going to have to happen slowly and with careful planning."

The annual cost of attending Loyola is $12,200, which only adds to Loyola's problems.

"It's hard to build a program," Cleary said "when your school is more expensive than the others in your league and the school doesn't help out."

Rod Wilde, who heads a successful program at Pepperdine, agrees. His is a small private school like Loyola, except that he offers twice the number the scholarships.

"It has a lot to do with commitment on the part of the school," Wilde said. "It's obvious that the primary reason for their lack of success is money."

However, even with Loyola's financial problems, there was a glimmer of hope for this season's team. Rosales thought it at least would have some depth and be half-decent, contrasted with past teams.

That description doesn't fit this year's squad, though.

Loyola lost three of its top players unexpectedly. Two were forced to red-shirt and one dropped out of school with little notice. All were starters.

Outside hitter Kirk Fonoimoana and middle blocker Sio Saipaia were academically ineligible at the start of the season.

Fonoimoana, a 6-foot senior from Mira Costa High, was Loyola's most consistent player. Saipaia is a 6-foot-2 sophomore from Hawaii, who was an important part of the Lions' front line.

And two days before the season started, junior Larry Barnett, a 6-foot outside hitter, quit school.

"It would have made a big difference if those three guys were here," said Rosales. "When you lose three starters, there goes half the team."

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